One of my mentors, Dr. Peter Baigent, the VP of Student Affairs at Stony Brook, passed away over the weekend.
Growing up, I never had a great relationship with my father. So I found substitutes. I found people who were willing to mentor, challenge when necessary, but most importantly, guide me.
At 19, I became the student government Treasurer. Looking back, I had no fucking clue what I was doing. I had ideas, values and principles - but not the skills to prepare a $3m budget. Dr. Baigent’s role was to certify the budget - which is another way of saying, make sure the students don’t do anything too crazy. He taught me the importance of defining metrics, how to measure them, and how to fund your initiatives. It’s never enough to just have ideas. Ideas without execution are worthless.
At 20, I became the Director of Events for the Student Government. Over Winter Break, I sent him an email on the weekend (3am on a Sunday). He responded a few hours later and set a meeting for 8am on Monday. He already had printed out my email, highlighted key sections and talked me through everything. I was planning a Bruno Mars concert and I was having trouble communicating with the various departments. Within a few hours, those problems went away. That event would not have happened without his help.
At 21, I ran for the President of the FSA Board of Directors. I lost the election 6-5, but the outgoing Treasurer/CFO of the University, Karol Gray nominated me for Vice President. That was Dr. Baigent’s position. I won 8-3. He voted for me. He made himself available whenever I needed help. I took him up on that very often. Whenever he would talk (which wasn’t often), I did my best to listen and take notes. I learned how to steer, plan and budget for a $40m organization in those meetings. I don’t know where I’d be without his mentorship.
Earlier this year, I visited the campus and made it a point to try and see Dr. Baigent in his office. We had a chance to talk briefly, and I’m sad that will be our last conversation. My meetings with Dr. Baigent were just as valuable (if not more) as any class I took at Stony Brook.